One of the highlights of the Wine Media Conference is always the “Mystery Dinner Excursions.” The routine is very simple, we are whisked away in the dark, but not blindfolded, off to a surprise winery hosting the event. Sometimes the dinner is hosted at the owner’s house. This evening was hosted at Doubleback Winery and also on hand we had co-owners Jerry Solomon and Trey Busch from Sleight of Hand Cellars. Then as a bonus, Andrae’s Kitchen was preparing our dinner.
For this post we will focus on Doubleback Winery and will cover the wines of Sleight of Hand Cellars and other wines of Walla Walla in a separate post.
Walla Walla is an AVA ( American Viticultural Area) in the southeast corner of Washington with complex soils and warm growing season with cool nights. The net result is some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon .
Drew Bledsoe, owner of Doubleback, spent many of childhood days in Walla Walla as a star quarterback at the local high school. He stayed local and went to Washington State University (Pullman, WA) and quickly turned those talents to the National Football League. He was very successful and helped turned the fortunes of the New England Patriots around. Drew got hit hard in a game and suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest and this almost resulted in his death. Drew recovered but lost his starting job to the now famous Tom Brady.
That was 17 years ago and today Doubleback and the professional staff Drew has assembled is held in high esteem. Their first plantings were in 2007. Over the years their wine received very high ratings from the prestigious Robert Parker’s Advocate. One of their wines received 97 point and less than 1% of the wines reviewed have that high of rating. Many other awards have followed with one being at the top 100 of the Wine Speculator list.
How did Drew accomplish this? His first move was to bring longtime friend and local wine owner and wine guru Chris Figgins as wine consultant. Then starting in 2115 he hired another local, Josh McDaniels. Josh is now Winemaker and General Manager for Doubleback and their sister company Bledsoe Family Winery. Prior to this Josh worked for Chris Figgins winery, Leonetti, and interned in Argentina with a winemaker. Recently Josh was named “Game Changer of Washington Wine” by the Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Interesting about the name “Game Changer” the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots football team name is also Josh McDaniels and he is also called a game changer.
So much for football now let us look at some of the wine. We sampled many wines during the evening. Of course the Cabernet Sauvignon shined.
We were served many wines and many vintages and this evening and everyone around the table had a different opinion which was the best vintage. While sipping the wine I knew once I return to my office I needed to put on my forensic meteorological hat on to see about any patterns.
The winner is? Well the local guru Chris Figgins says 2012 and the Wine Spectator concurs and says “2012 had ideal conditions that produced powerful wines with elegance”
For the weather data at Walla Walla this is what we found. Average temperature for the growing season was 64 F which close to the average (10 year moving average- see chart below) Then after 2012 temperatures did spike up. Same can be said about the growing degree days at were at 2747. Also of note is rainfall, when we have rainfall during the summer there can be mildew issues to fight. In 2012 from July through September there was barely a trace of rainfall.
Thus the 2012 certainly seems to have been one of the best years but we are certain there will be a long debate on this. One thing is certain that everyone can agree with Drew doubling back to Walla Walla is one of the best moves.